Last year, more than 2 million students across the country took the ACT college entrance exam.
Many scored well in the SAT alternative, but a little more than 2,750 did something their millions of peers couldn’t do — they were perfect.
One of those people is right here in our own backyard: Bronx Science’s Sebastian Perez.
“For the first 15 seconds I was in disbelief,” the junior said. “It was a mix of ‘oh wow, that happened,’ and an abounding realization of my achievement.”
Only one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACTs achieves perfection.
And outside of a practice test, Perez was able to hit that score of 36 in his first try.
Yet, beginner’s luck has no place in this story. A month before the exam, Perez sacrificed both his time and life in order to prepare.
That preparation included a prep test, but no tutor. Perez used a simply philosophy sitting down to take the exam: Don’t linger on questions, and make every effort to finish the section.
Compared to the SATs — its more famous counterpart — the ACT covers more subjects, and gives students less time to complete. Perez admitted to having trouble with the science portion specifically because of all the text. He recommends not reading all of the information, but to look for what’s needed to answer the questions.
Perez learned that during his practice exam. By the time he took the actual test, Perez finished with time to spare.
“Emotionally speaking, I had the typical level of nervousness,” Perez said. “I was actually shooting for a 34, and I was not expecting to get this high.”
Another part Perez didn’t expect was a letter from the ACT’s national office, which had a congratulations to him from the test’s chief executive officer, Marten Roorda.
“Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare,” Roorda wrote.
“While test scores are just one of the multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”
Even though Perez is only a junior, his love for math gives him an idea of what he wants to pursue in the future. He describes himself as a “numbers guy,” and in the future, would appreciate being a part of any field that allows him to work with numbers — like a mathematics professor or field research.
“If I can do math and get paid and have fun doing it or whatever the heck, I’ll be fine either way,” Perez said.
Perez is a member of the Bronx Science math club. However, he’s also involved in the American Museum of Natural History planning committee, and teaches third grade education at his church’s parish every Sunday.
Even with an accomplishment like this under his belt, Perez has no intention on stopping.
Part of the reason ACT’s national office sends letters to students is to offer them much more than congratulations.
“We want to make sure they understand what a strong achievement this is,” said Ed Colby, ACT’s senior director of media and public relations. “We’re making sure they’re aware of the magnitude of the achievement.”
When Perez’s family first learned about his score, their reaction was absolute elation, he said. Perez’s mother was “very ecstatic.” Seeing the letter only cemented the achievement, he added.
The score definitely felt like a victory to Perez who now no longer has to worry about this part of his high school career. Now he’s ready to focus on other elements — like his college application.
“I think the big celebration that there is, is that now this burden has been lifted off my chest and I don’t have to take it again,” Perez said.
“The stress relief that came with that is celebration enough.”